Ron DeSantis, Southwest Florida Businesses Meet as Hurricane Ian Recovery Continues

This week, Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) hosted a roundtable with more than a dozen Southwest Florida businesses.

The roundtable discussion included representatives across industry sectors who shared their unique perspectives, needs, and obstacles for regaining economic self-sufficiency. This discussion focused on the state’s immediate and long-term business and workforce recovery efforts in the region.

“Many small businesses in Southwest Florida are facing a long road to recovery, and to meet their needs, I have challenged every state agency to identify and remove obstacles standing in their way,” said DeSantis. “Fully recovering from Hurricane Ian requires a long-term commitment, and we will continue to provide resources and make strategic investments to help these communities get back on their feet as quickly as possible.”

“As a Lee County native, I know that small business owners are truly the backbone of the Southwest Florida community. Their insight is invaluable as we work to ensure a speedy economic recovery,” said DEO Sec. Dane Eagle. “Under Governor DeSantis’ leadership, DEO will continue working hand-in-hand with the business community in Southwest Florida and beyond to expedite their recovery and enhance their economic resiliency.”

Participants from the Southwest Florida business community included:

Steve Rye, CEO of Mercola Health Resources and Mercola Market in Cape Coral
Marty Harrity, Owner of Doc Ford’s Rum Bar and Grille in Sanibel
Jay Johnson, Owner of Bubba’s Roadhouse and Saloon in Cape Coral
Greg Spencer, CEO of Timbers Resorts
Matt Sinclair, President of Sinclair Custom Homes, Inc. in Matlacha
Robbie Roepstorff, President of Edison National Bank and Bank of the Islands in Matlacha
Matt Simmons, Managing Partner of Maxwell, Hendry & Simmons, LLC in Fort Myers
Tommy Kolar, Vice President of Yucatan Waterfront, Inc. in Matlacha
Cathy Eagle, Charter Boat Captain and Owner of Captain Cathy Eagle Boat Tours in Matlacha
Bob Rosier, President of Rosier Insurance in Sanibel
Jeff Miloff, Partner and Broker at Miloff Aubuchon Realty Group Cape Coral
Jerron Hull, President and CEO of AIM Engineering & Surveying, Inc. in Fort Myers
Jason Moon, President of Elite DNA Therapy in Naples
Nomiki Neskes, Co-owner of Plaka Restaurant Fort Myers Beach
Leoma Lovegrove, Owner, Leoma Lovegrove Gallery & Gardens in Matlacha
Bernard Johnson, Owner, Bert’s Bar and Bert’s Pine Bay Gallery
Mark Marinello, Owner, HM Restaurant Group, LLC

Last week, DeSantis activated the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program, administered by DEO and its fiscal administrator, Florida First Capital Finance Corporation, for businesses impacted by Hurricane Ian. $50 million is available through the program, $10 million of which must go to small businesses that are agricultural producers. Eligible small businesses impacted by Hurricane Ian must be located in Brevard, Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Flagler, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands, Hillsborough, Lake, Lee, Manatee, Monroe, Orange, Osceola, Pinellas, Polk, Putnam, Sarasota, Seminole, St. Johns, or Volusia Counties to qualify for the program. Small businesses in the most impacted counties — Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto, Hardee, Lee, and Sarasota — will be escalated and prioritized as they are received.

Loans approved through the Emergency Bridge Loan Program are intended to “bridge the gap” between the time a disaster impacts a business and when a business has secured longer term recovery funding such as federally or commercially available loans, insurance claims, or other resources. Eligible small businesses may apply for loans of up to $50,000 through the program. To date, more than $4.8 million has been awarded through the loan program to 106 businesses that were impacted by the storm.

Businesses that sustained either physical or economic damage are also encouraged to self-report damages through the Business Damage Assessment Survey at FloridaDisaster.biz to inform the needs of the business community. This survey allows the state to expedite Hurricane Ian recovery efforts by gathering data and assessing the needs of affected businesses. Results from the Business Damage Assessment Survey will be shared with various federal, state, and local agencies to implement appropriate relief. To date, the state has received more than 2,000 survey responses from businesses across Florida.

Florida activated Business Recovery Centers in partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Small Business Development Center Network to connect businesses impacted by Hurricane Ian with critical resources.

The state of Florida is fully engaged at five Disaster Recovery centers to help individuals and businesses in areas impacted by Hurricane Ian. Disaster Recovery Centers are a coordinated effort between FEMA, the Florida Division of Emergency Management, and state agencies and partners to provide wrap-around resources and information about recovery programs and disaster assistance to survivors.

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, the CareerSource Florida Network, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, the Department of Veterans Affairs, Florida Legal Services, the Florida Department of Children and Families, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, and the Area Agency on Aging for Southwest Florida are available to provide information and resources. The following DRC locations are open daily:

Lee County Site #1

Lakes Regional Library

15290 Bass Road

Fort Myers, FL 33919

Hours: Daily 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Lee County Site #2

Fort Myers DMS Building

2295 Victoria Ave.

Ft. Myers, FL 33901

Hours: Daily 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Sarasota County

Shannon Staub Library

4675 Career Lane

North Port, FL 34289

Hours: Daily 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Collier County

Veterans Community Park

1895 Veterans Park Drive

Naples, FL 34109

Hours: Daily 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Charlotte County

The Home Depot Parking Lot

12621 S McCall Road

Port Charlotte, FL 33981

DEO’s Short-Time Compensation Program is a voluntary employer program designed to help employers maintain their staff by reducing the weekly working hours during temporary slowdowns instead of temporarily laying off employees. Once an employer has established a Short-Time Compensation Plan, eligible employees may apply for reemployment assistance and will receive a partial reemployment check to supplement their reduced paychecks.

Through Florida’s State Rapid Response program, Rapid Response Coordinators, provided by the state’s local workforce development boards, connect businesses and employees affected by a permanent closure, mass layoff, mass dislocation, or Trade Adjustment Assistance petition with services to prevent and minimize impacts on workers, businesses, and communities.

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